History & Heritage
From Logging to Tourism
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When you walk, drive or ride around Bend, you’ll notice unique names of streets and places. These names tell a story of Bend’s early history. Drake Park, for example, wasn’t named after a duck. The beautiful park, peacefully hugging Mirror Pond was named after Alexander M. Drake, a frontier developer. In fact, Mirror Pond isn’t a pond either. It’s a gently flowing river springing from the Cascade Mountains, which is reflected in its glassy surface. You see, more than 100 years ago, pioneers took refuge and relaxed here. Once they spotted Pilot Butte on the horizon, incoming pioneers knew that they were approaching the twisting riverbanks of the Deschutes River, home to more than 300 early settlers. They lived in an area called Farewell Bend, which was the common saying when the pioneers sadly continued on with their westward journey. In November 1904 the residents voted to incorporate to a city. The town needed a name and what better name was there than its trademark. In January 1905, the citizens dropped the farewell part and nailed up the sign that said welcome to Bend, Oregon.
Soon after, the race was on between two railroad barons, James J. Hill and E.H. Harriman, laying tracks that would later open the doors to logging commerce and tourism. The Brooks-Scanlon and the Shevlin-Hixon mills were the largest timber mills of their day, making Bend a very prosperous place to live, work, and play.
Though the mills have long been closed, the lifestyle and the vibrant culture of a booming town remains. Today, the old Brooks-Scanlon mill is humming once again, not with sawmills but with the sounds of people enjoying shopping, dining, and entertainment in the renovated Old Mill District. The historic downtown Bend area, full of art, fine dining, and unique shops is bustling with year-round activities and events. Relax in Drake Park and listen to music for free while indulging yourself with offerings from Bend’s finest restaurants. The stars shine as bright in the sky as they do on the stages of the Les Schwab Amphitheater, the Tower Theatre, and the Athletic Club of Bend. Everything keeping with tradition and culture of welcoming new people to a place called Bend.
The whole family will enjoy a visit to the High Desert Museum, which is residence to more than 100 wildlife creatures like otters and a rescued bobcat. Encounter animals like owls, hawks, and porcupines up close during demonstrations throughout the day with wildlife handlers. Inside the museum, the Spirit of The West exhibit is a journey back in time. Experience the adventure of the Oregon Trail and take a peek inside a mining camp in Silver City, Idaho. Learn the history of 19th Century arts and crafts through live demonstrations or visit a High Desert Homestead Ranch from the 1880s. Whether you are eight-years-old or 80, the High Desert Museum promises an unforgettable afternoon just a short drive from Bend.
The Deschutes Historical Museum is a great place to start learning about the history of Bend. They offer a free Bend Heritage Walk smartphone app so you can learn as you stroll. If you happen to be here during Halloween, you’ll want to experience their haunted tours of downtown Bend where you’ll hear all of the spooky history and haunts surrounding this mountain town.